Paul di Resta has predicted that the Valencia Street Circuit – home to this weekend's European Grand Prix – will likely 'play to the strengths' of Force India F1's Mercedes-powered VJM04 and that the employment of DRS will be key, and the Scot is targeting a top ten qualifying showing and race day points in the Spanish city.
di Resta's only experience of Valencia to-date was as Force India's reserve driver during Friday's opening free practice session there last year, impressively lapping less than six hundredths of a second adrift of regular driver Vitantonio Liuzzi – and as he gears up for his first race around the streets of the Spanish port, the F1 2011 rookie admits he is excited about the potential to score a good result.
“It's difficult for me to talk much about Valencia having only done one practice session there,” confessed the 25-year-old, who has extraordinarily out-qualified his far more experienced FIF1 team-mate Adrian Sutil on all-bar one occasion during his maiden campaign of top flight competition to-date. “What I do remember is that I quite enjoyed the track and it wasn't too difficult to learn. Although it's a long lap, there are not that many difficult corners and the main characteristic is the long straight.
“Because of the long straights, I think Valencia is another track where we will see a big advantage with the DRS. That should make for some good opportunities for overtaking, and it will be interesting to see how the FIA approaches this when setting the DRS activation zone so that overtaking doesn't become too easy. Tyre wear will also be a crucial factor for the weekend, because it's another street track and it's difficult to predict how the tyres will perform.
“In terms of my objectives, I think I'd be fairly happy if we can be pushing to make the top ten in qualifying and racing for points. We saw in Canada that this is a realistic goal, and I think the layout of the track should play to the strengths of our car. Hopefully we will have some new parts coming as well, so that we can focus on taking another step forward.”
If di Resta is a fan of the Valencia Street Circuit, then Sutil conversely is not, but the German did fare well there this time twelve months ago, benefitting from the timing of the safety car period to take the chequered flag a solid sixth from a lowly grid position. After failing to score last time out in Montreal, he is fired-up to make amends a fortnight later.
“I think we all enjoy visiting Valencia,” opined the 28-year-old. “The city is beautiful and the weather is great, but to be honest, the track is not one of my favourites. The lap is made up mainly of straights and hairpins, so it's not the most challenging place to go racing. Although the walls are close, it doesn't really feel like a street circuit and it's nowhere close to racing in Monaco.
“I have good memories in Valencia, though, especially from last year's race. Although we struggled in qualifying, I got lucky in the race with the safety car and made up quite a few positions to finish sixth. It would be great to have another result like that to make up for the disappointment we had in Canada.
“In the past, it was always very difficult to overtake in Valencia, even with such long straights. That problem should be solved this year with the DRS available, and I expect there to be much more overtaking in the race.”